15 April 2014

You are an Overcomer

We're all put into special groups to classify and put us into specific places; sometimes we do this to ourselves, other times society decides where we belong and we listen. Many times, these classifications ultimately divide us and we believe the lies that they tag us with.

A teenage girl believes she isn't skinny or pretty enough to be a model; a young boy who dreams of having the opportunity to play basketball is rejected and believes he isn't good enough to try out for the team the next year; a fresh college graduate receives no calls back from his extensive interviews and begins to question his purpose. Divisions between, "us and them," the privileged and underprivileged, the rich and poor, the skilled and unskilled, the blacks and whites - the list can go on and on. These false divisions hinder equality and limit self-betterment. In extreme circumstances, such false divisions lead to inhumanity and global atrocities such as the Jewish Holocaust or the Rwandan Genocide. It is our responsibility to overcome these partitions each and every day.

Jay Smooth, speaker and radio personality, explained the concept of the dental hygiene paradigm in a ted talk (which may be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbdxeFcQtaU). The dental hygiene paradigm states that change of thinking and intent doesn't happen in one single sitting; instead, we must keep up daily with brushing our teeth, showering, and more. 

Change - lasting, meaningful change - is the same way. It must be a conscious choice every day. In overcoming the false divisions we may be placed in, we should pursue erasing them every day through conscious action. It may be such simple an act as standing before a mirror and stating, "I'm better than this" - because you are. You are better than what anybody can label you to be. You are an overcomer. 

02 April 2014

A Hero.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. From Batman and Captain America (my personal favorites) to your friendly neighborhood mailman. Superheroes such as the afformentioned are commonly known to be heroes; by the dark of night they rescue helpless damsels in distress and bring justice to an unjust society. Sounds like the life, right? Living as a comfortable, million-dollar bachelor by day and quickly changing into skin-tight spandex and flowing cape by night? Children dream of fulfilling such a destiny and if we are all being honest, don't adults too? We want to make a difference. We want to bring justice. We want to mean something to the world. And most of all, we just want an excuse to wear our underwear on the outside of our spandex.

But what about those friendly neighborhood mailmen? Or that janitor that keeps the place clean so the rest of the workplace can function? What about the teachers that face the frontlines everyday to nurture the kids that dream of being the superheroes of the future? This is where true superheromanship is displayed. In terms of real world heroes, we might look at sports stars that set good examples, musicians that donate 'x' amount of dollars to a charity, or actors and actresses that travel to third-world countries; while these are all respectable and positive examples, heroes are revealed in all ways. In truth, heroes are displayed by actions, but superheroes are exemplified by their heart.

23 March 2014

Who am I?

Our society constantly classifies and labels. You are a boy. You are an adolescent. You have light brown hair. You are a student. You are an athlete. You are a Christian. You are whatever the world may label you as being.

I've just given you some of the subgroups that you might consider me to belong to or label as being a part of my identity. It is so intriguing that we, as humans, are so keen to labeling people and putting them into groups. It is more interesting when those groups collide or conflict.

In high school, I considered myself to be a pretty well-rounded student. I tried to be involved in every event and organization I possibly could. I've tried to continue this into college (with some narrowing) and still find my labels conflicting at times. Whether it be through commitments in tennis taking me away from other commitments with choir, or vice versa; or social norms clashing with my own beliefs and values; or even one service opportunity compared to another; my relationships with others are altered through where I choose to place my time and efforts. At times, it may seem like a balancing act to maintain such an act without toppling over, but it is most important to remember that just because the world may classify us by such labels it does not make us who we are.

It is our responsibility to remain steadfast in our identity - to remain unshaken by the categories into which others may pigeonhole us. We are, in fact, not determined by whatever the world may label us into being as I stated earlier; but we are whatever we may choose so long as we stay true.

28 February 2014

The thing with feathers and Immaculee Ilibagiza.

Hope is a Thing with Feathers – Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

As I read this poem by Emily Dickinson and considered its relation to the story of Immaculee Ilibagiza in her book Left to Tell, I envisioned a vivid picture of her ninety one days spent in Pastor Murinzi’s small bathroom with seven other women. Throughout her story, Immaculee delves into her deep-rooted relationship with God that developed as she prayed unceasingly in the tiny bathroom. The way Dickinson describes hope is exactly how Immaculee kept her faith during her hardships and horrors; the hope that Dickinson refers is the love and promise of God that Immaculee becomes so familiar and dependent on. Only a crumb of faith was asked of her – similar to the passage in Matthew 17:20 in which Jesus tells us that we need only faith the size of a mustard seed to move mountains. The little bird, the thing with feathers, gave her visions of freedom, safety, warmth, and hope through the chilly storm. I think that’s a profound thing, is it not?

05 February 2014

A Uniting Art.

Art, whether through the form of music, writing, reading, painting, drawing, shaping, or anything at all, is a beautiful thing to be enjoyed by all. The endless forms allow for expression in any form for any purpose and is unlike any other marvel in the world. One of my favorite forms of art is music because of its beautiful combination of poetry, sound, and unity. Music can tell a story with little to no words just through the moving sounds it produces.

It can be funny to think how the classical stylings of Mozart, Bach, Brahms, and Chopin have translated to works by Falco, Relient K, Xzibit, and Coolio. Producer and rap artist Chris “Drumma Boy” Gholson puts it well when he said, “There is an electric synergy between the two genres of Classical and Crunk, but one has to have a discerning ear to recognize the instinctive connection.” Music has come a long way in a few centuries, but it will forever be rooted close to the heart of its beginnings.

Music has an undeniable uniting force that can bring even the classical junkies together with today's hip hop addicts. It can spread a message across the world - so as in the case of the band System of a Down who's efforts can be understood and seen in the documentary Screamers. Or the message singer/songwriter Steve Moakler delivers with his music and heart (which can be further understood after watching this short video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJC29MAB0Ws&feature=c4-overview&list=UUQJXQtCCDgzRUrZwGDCg_uQ).

The message that is able to be spread with music is identical to that which is preached through other forms, proving that art surely must be a beautiful uniting factor in the world.

26 January 2014

Poetry - more than an expression.

Poems have a remarkable ability to express the heart's deepest concerns, desires, and pains. A poem can be triggered by a simple word, a thought, a smile, a tear, and any event close enough to one's mind, heart, and soul. A poem is the manifestation of words being brought to life. What that life means is dependent on the author and the reader, but the result is an extraordinary relationship that is derived from two individuals' commonality.

A long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away) I wrote a haiku in response to an assignment in my freshman English class. We were told to construct a haiku about any tragedy - ranging from losing a wallet, to heartbreak, to major catastrophes. For the most part, the project was completely freeform and up to our decision so long as we followed the rules of haikus.

After much deliberation, I found the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centers to be at the top of my selection. However, rather than discuss the particularity of the attacks, I wrote my poem in a much broader aspect to discuss the importance of freedom. The following is what my 9th grade mind came up with:

I fight for freedom
A freedom long forgotten
The freedom of life

21 January 2014

A Student and a Cynic

Through my time here at Defiance College, I've been able to meet and befriend some individuals capable of inspiration and enlightenment, just as you may find on any other campus. One of which is in my Composition class with me and is following the same assignment structure through his blogs. He's a very charismatic, insightful, and engaging writer. Not to mention a talented musician, world class chef, and actor extraordinaire as he puts it. James Boley is certainly the only individual I could be speaking of - a fellow college student from the great state of Texas. (And yes, he has confirmed that everything is bigger in that great state.) From what he's posted and told the world in his first blog posting, his history and his story truly differs that of mine. That said, I notice even more similarities.

James lists his Grandmother as a key influence and centerpiece in sculpting him into who he is today. I think we all can relate if we can locate that person in our lives. For me, that person is my father - from his beginnings and learnings of life, he has striven to provide for a better life for his children. Just as James is inspired and given strength through his Grandmother, so am I thanks to my father. And even so by James himself, even in the short time I've known him.

One of the first things you might notice about James when you first meet him is his easygoing attitude. More so, beneath that easygoing attitude is a unique ambition which is inspiring in and of itself. James carries himself with the attitude of pursuing dreams - and that my friends is contagious.

You can see James' blog for our class at http://jboley001.blogspot.com/. Enjoy and have a great day!

07 January 2014

“…the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.” -James Baldwin

Consider the remarkable life you lead. You might not consider yourself extraordinary or exceptional, but if only for a moment consider exactly what you are. A wonderful creation that thinks, analyzes, records, and creates. An amazing human being that has been carefully made and that is constantly being remodeled and refashioned. It's a little known fact that every three seconds fifty thousand cells in your body die and are replaced. And from the start of that sentence to the end, fifty thousand more cells died and were replaced - it's happening constantly day and night. It's a wonder you're so tired all the time!

And quite possibly one of the more remarkable things about you and me, being who we are, is the way each of us is constantly creating history with every single one of those cells that dies and is remade. Every step we step, every breath we breathe, every blink we blink, every second of every day is intricately affecting the world in which we live, penning down the words that will go down to affect our children and  our children's children, and our children's children's children, and so on. Just as Mr. James Baldwin states in his essay, White Man's Guilt, “…the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.” 

I find it awing when I consider the immense weight of each of my decisions and every occurrence in my life. Think about it for a moment with me, and perhaps you can relate your own situational anecdote: 

As I left for home one weekend, I found myself experiencing some car issues. If my car wouldn't have had trouble starting, I wouldn't have been held up for a few extra minutes as I pumped the gas in frustration and I might have gotten the headstart I wanted in traveling to my destination. However, as I finally coaxed the vehicle to turn over to start and began on my way, I saw ahead in the distance what appeared to be a minor wreck happening before my eyes as a trailing car rear-ended the car ahead due to an abrupt halt.

Consider for a short moment if I wouldn't have had such a bothersome dilemma in starting my own vehicle - I could've had a much more terrible car-debacle upon my hands. Which would probably put that day down in my own history as one of the worst yet. Now consider hypothetically if Abraham Lincoln had experienced an aggravating quandary in his life on his way to deliver the Gettysburg Address in the dedication of Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. American history would be missing one of its most profound and dire speeches in the story of our nation! The underlying point is the impact that each situation, decision, and thought in our lives has on not only ourselves, but the tapestry of history upon which we write. The tapestry that as Mr. Baldwin describes, "we carry within us," and by which we are, "unconsciously controlled by it," and which truly is indescribably and remarkably present in our past, present, and future. The story that is changing and being rewritten with each perishing cell within us, but that is penned in an even more beautiful tone with every small, miniscule cell to replenish and remake. History, the ideal by which we all can find our place and discover our common thread to understanding, is by far the most stunning and delightful creation with which we have the liberty to work together to inscribe upon the hearts of the forthcoming generations.